KANSAS CITY, Kan. – In the last game of the 2012 season, Uri Rosell and Peterson Joseph offered a glimpse of what Sporting Kansas City's midfield could look like in years to come.
The 20-year-old Rosell, starting in place of injured defensive mid Júlio César, showed solid holding skills, good passing out of the back and an ability to come forward and join the attack.
Joseph took Paulo Nagamura's spot after the Brazilian was sidelined by an ankle injury. And for the first time since joining Sporting in late 2011, the 22-year-old Joseph put on a full-90 display of the deft distribution skills that earned him the nickname “Haitian Xavi.”
WATCH: Vermes' post-game comments
Both went the distance in Sporting's 1-0 win over Houston on Wednesday in the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals. And while his club came up short on the aggregate, after losing the opening leg 2-0, manager Peter Vermes couldn't have been happier with the play of his younge midfielders.”
“You've got to look at two young guys coming to the park and playing such a big game like this,” Vermes said, “and to play with the composure and the ability those guys played with – what a great future for those young guys and our organization.”
Joseph made just four starts in 10 appearances during the regular season, while Rosell recorded one start in five outings since joining the club in August.
“You’re putting them in a situation that they don’t have rhythm. They’re not playing game after game after game,” Vermes said. “Those guys came in without missing a step. But look, I’m telling you their performance – from both of those guys – was outstanding.
"We’re not talking above average. They were fantastic. They played the position exactly the way that we train and talk about game after game. Those guys were tremendous.”
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Rosell has been a quick study since his midsummer arrival, a reflection of the similarities between Sporting's 4-3-3 formation and the one he played coming up through Barcelona's system in Spain.
“This is a very good league, a very strong league,” he said after the home semifinal. “I have learned so much and I have only great words for playing here.”
Joseph has had a rougher road, both personally and professionally.
He joined the team late this season because of the death of his mother back home in Haiti, and has struggled for both playing time and consistency.
“They don't give me minutes here, but today I played 90 minutes,” he said. “I'm so happy to get the minutes, and I think I did very good. That's what I'm looking for, to play better and to be a starter on the team. That's my objective. I'm still young, and I need to play.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.